Sunday, 23 July 2017

Sunday Snapshot

It's easy to miss the smaller details... Spotted in Haydon Bridge- the former home of poet and novelist Philip Larkin.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Opening of The Sill

Yesterday I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to look around The Sill, the UK's brand new National Landscape Discovery Centre which is situated in Once Brewed in the heart of the Northumberland National Park and will open to the public on 29th July. 

The Sill is a permanent free-to-enter landscape exhibition with interactive exhibits. Among its facilities are two learning rooms for use by educational groups, which are also available for public events and workshops. There is also a shop providing a wide variety of goods with a particular focus on local talent and creativity and The Hive, a new enterprise hub housing new and emerging rural businesses. 

The building is designed to blend in with the landscape surrounding it, with a unique Whin Sill grassland roof- fully accessible to all- allowing everyone to enjoy the panoramic views in all directions from the viewing platform. It is the only roof of its kind in the world and will be used by students to learn more about carbon capture, geology and ecology. 

There is an 86 seat cafe run by Fresh Element which will source produce from local suppliers and focus on seasonal and sustainable dishes, whilst providing stunning views of the countryside from the all-around windows. Also within the building is an 86 bed youth hostel split over two floors which will provide excellent accommodation for anyone wanting to explore the area. 

This is a fantastic facility, with superb accommodation, friendly staff and great food- a long term project that has come to fruition and everyone in Northumberland should be very proud.

The Sill opens on Saturday 29th July with free activities and events from 9.30am-6pm. 

Friday, 21 July 2017

Friday Focus... on Bellingham

Friday Focus… on Bellingham

Second up in my series of Friday Focus is the village of Bellingham. Why not make a visit this weekend- there’s plenty to see and do!

Situated near to the North Tyne river, Bellingham is a popular destination for keen fishers. It’s also a great place to visit if you’re a fan of cycling or walking- the 2.5 mile Hareshaw Linn Walk is a particular highlight, passing the old ironworks to finish up at a spectacular 30-foot waterfall.

The stone barrel vault at St Cuthbert’s Church is said to make it unique in England. The 13th century, Grade-I listed building is full of history and is definitely worth a visit.

The Heritage Centre is the perfect place to go to learn all about Bellingham’s industrial past. With exhibitions on the Border Counties Railway, mining, farming and more, the museum is a wonderful celebration of Bellingham’s history.

With plenty of restaurants and a hotel, why not make a weekend of it and see what Bellingham has to offer?!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Jane Austen on the new £10 banknote

I was recently able to see the new £10 note featuring one of the great British writers, Jane Austen, up-close for myself. The note was unveiled earlier this week at Winchester Cathedral to mark the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death, and it looks fantastic. There are some very special details to look out for on the note when it is released into circulation in September- a portrait of Austen commissioned by her nephew and the background is inspired by her own 12-sided writing table.  Jane Austen is the first female writer to feature on a bank note – a deserved honour for such a popular and enduring writer.  I look forward to seeing the bank note when it is released later in the year, and I am delighted to see Jane Austen honoured in this way- a truly great British woman. 

Hexham Constituency Community Champions Award Winners

I recently announced the launch of the Hexham Constituency Community Champions Awards, which recognise some of the extraordinary achievements of people in communities across the constituency. Here are some of the latest recipients who have been honoured for their outstanding contributions to the constituency.

Alicia Armstrong- for sporting achievement, winning four gold and two silver medals in swimming at the World Transplant Games in Spain and setting three world records, five years after receiving a life-saving bone marrow transplant

Matt Cawood- for sporting and charitable achievement, completing a 24-hour run at the Wentworth Leisure Centre track in Hexham in aid of the Puffin Appeal, with plans to complete a similar run in Keswick for Tynedale Hospice at Home 

Kathryn Cobb- for service to the community, as a Home Library service volunteer in Ponteland for 19 years

Jo Foster- for sporting achievement, becoming European Champion in the 67.5kg Masters 2 class at the Global Powerlifting Committee European Championships in Poland

Dan Joyce- for sporting achievement, becoming English Schools champion over 800m running and currently ranked UK number one at Under 15 level

Joyce Laws- for service to the community, a leading light in the Heddon-on-the-wall community for many years, Joyce has been involved in everything from the WI and Parish Council to the annual Village Show 

Splitz Dancers- for charitable achievement, raising £75,000 for local causes over the past three decades through performances, and raising £1900 this year for the Richardson Eating Disorder Inpatient Service at the RVI

Congratulations to all the recipients!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Northumberland Knowledge- Panhaggerty

There are lots of things that make Northumberland great, not least our food! One of the most famous Northumberland dishes is panhaggerty, a casserole-type meal made with potato, onion and grated cheese and cooked in meat flavours. It is thought that panhaggerty may have originated in mining communities in the 1930s, and it is traditional that it is always served from the dish it was cooked in. It’s a simple dish to make, so be sure to give it a try!

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 250g/9oz streaky bacon
  • 6 potatoes, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 onions, peeled, sliced
  • 5 carrots, peeled, sliced
  • 500ml/17½fl oz chicken stock
  •  salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 150g/5oz cheddar cheese, grated
  • crusty bread, to serve

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep ovenproof pan. Fry the bacon for 3-4 minutes, or until golden-brown and slightly crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside to drain on kitchen paper.
  2. In the same pan used to cook the bacon, arrange a layer of the sliced potatoes in the bottom of the pan. Cover the potatoes with a layer of sliced onions, then a layer of sliced carrots. Layer over some of the crisp bacon, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
  3. Repeat the process with the remaining potatoes, onions, carrots and bacon, finishing with a layer of potatoes on top. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Pour in the chicken stock so that all of the ingredients are covered, then bring to the boil. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15-25 minutes, or until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
  5. Preheat the grill to high.
  6. Uncover the pan and sprinkle over the grated cheese. Grill for 5-6 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and golden-brown
  7. To serve, spoon the panhaggerty into bowls and serve with some crusty bread to mop up the juices. 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Brilliant Businesses- Fentimans

Hexham is home to one of the UK’s most successful drinks businesses. Fentimans have been brewing drinks using their traditional botanical brewing process for more than 100 years.

In 1905, Thomas Fentiman, from West Yorkshire, was given a ginger beer recipe from a tradesman who approached him for a loan. When the loan was never repaid, he became the owner of the recipe and the Fentimans Business has been growing ever since, from a door-to-door sales company to one of the most successful businesses in Europe and the US!

Known for its old-style and vintage products, the company still uses the same botanical brewing technique using 100% natural ingredients like bark and flowers, with only a few small changes from the recipe used 100 years ago. The process has been passed down through several generations of the Fentiman family- a true family business.

The Hexham-based company expects its turnover to double by 2019 with increased demand from Europe and the US. Fentimens really is a Hexham success story- and I certainly recommend trying their delicious range of drinks!